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The Challenge of Convergent Crises

After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global community has little interest in addressing the problem of drug-resistant pathogens. But highlighting the links between antimicrobial resistance, climate change, and violent conflict could encourage world leaders to reconsider their priorities.

BOSTON – Climate change is not the only slow-moving crisis to reach a tipping point thanks to corporate greed, individual bad behavior, a stalemate in international negotiations, and a prolonged lack of any sense of urgency on the part of publics and policymakers. The same factors also have contributed to a dramatic rise in antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The extent of the threat to human health posed by AMR can hardly be overstated. Already, the loss of antibiotics’ potency or effectiveness contributes to nearly 1.2 million deaths annually. That is more than either HIV or malaria.

Some scholars have noted the similarity of the difficulties in addressing climate change and AMR. But so far there has been little discussion about the damage caused by the convergence of these crises.